Portrait Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Bright Light Techniques

I talk about the difficult lighting situations, now let me tell you how to solve 'em. Are you interested? Okay, so bright light. I'm not gonna get into the Xs and Os and the techniques, I'm just gonna get straight to it and tell you the solution, and if you really wanna know how I arrive this, guess what, buy Crazy Stupid Light, because I'm not gonna spend three days telling you how I arrived it, I'm just gonna tell you the solution, how's that? That's easier, okay. So, when in your bright light characteristics, what are they? Well, usually, you gotta shoot at a high F stop, right, when you say bright light, these are my camera settings to get a good exposure, alright? So I'm talking about this situation right here. What does it do? It creates sharp shadows, we talked about that. Hard light with hard light works. Soft light with hard light is better, okay? Bright colors pop, so when you're in a hard light situation, look for bright colors. If you see a red wall or blue, or the sky look...

s beautiful, it's a bright blue, use that to your advantage, okay? So every F stop has an advantage. It's just not like, "Oh, I shoot at 1.8 all the time." You can shoot at, give yourself a break, you can shoot at F16 too. It still looks cool. Alright, so here's your bright light situations. One, you're using direct sunlight, right? That's when the sun is shining on the subject, and that was kinda like the iPhone picture I took of my daughter when I was showing you the example, the Palm Springs thing yesterday. But anyways, the camera's here. The sun is bright, but it's not so bright that I'm blinking, and you can take a picture of me. These are using direct sunlight. Sun as side light. Now the sun may positioned over here. What do you do in that situation when the sun is on the side of you, or you could move your position and make the sun as a side light, too. That's also possible. So you could use it as direct light, you could use it as side light, and you could use it when sun is behind you. So there's basically three things, situations that you could do, so if I tell you what to do, and just tell you the answer, what to do on each of these things, you already know how to do it, right? So let's get to it. So, one, using direct sunlight. Okay, so you're using the sun as the main source. One, nose to the light, k? So, here's the light, nose to the light. Now, if that sun is so bright, and it's creating really dark shadows here, but you wanna see that, this is the trick that I do, is I reduce these shadows by a flash. So I use the sun as my main, and then I control the shadows with my flash. And we do that all the time with what? A lot of times, with a reflector, too. But in this case, a reflector won't work, because if you use a reflector, and the sun is coming this way, the reflector is gonna have to be behind me to catch some sun, right, so that's why using a flash will work in this case, K? And so, what you gotta do is keep your shutter under 200th of a second if you're using manual flash, a standard manual flash for it to see it. And then you just adjust the flash power by distance. In general, I just tick the flash on full, okay? And then I just adjust it by distance, so I'm using the main light here as the sun. I've got shadows over here. Here's a solution. Stick your flash on full, get about six feet away, fire it, and adjust from there. Isn't that easy, K? So, that's how I do it, alright, using direct sunlight. And so, here are some examples of using direct sunlight. Here, I didn't use any flash at all, cause I was just running-gunning, and I didn't even bring any lighting. Didn't wanna mess with it on the great wall of China. So, I just had her nose towards the light, so her face is the brightest part. And so you see bright colors there, That's perfect. You're in hard light, you see bright colors, thank you. I'm using that. Don't be scared. Just use it, okay? Use it to your advantage. Look for bright colors, nose towards the light, make sure the face is not over-exposed. So you're exposing for the face to make sure that is not over-exposed, k? Alright, so here's another bright light situation here, okay? We're in Burano, Italy. It's famous for its bright colors on the houses, and so I saw this, and I loved the red and blue. I placed her right there. Man, that's awesome. Problem? There was a shadow over her face. So what do I do? I eliminate the shadow by putting, using a flash. What did I put it on? Full. How far away was it? Six feet, bam. No thinking involved, k? So, when you're in a bright light situation, to get this, see how strong that shadow is right there? Flash on full at six feet away. That's gonna eliminate that. So you just use, it's just like you're painting your subject, and you're controlling the shadows with your flash using the sun as your main, and then you just control the shadows with your flash on the other side, okay? And that will work for you. It's easy, right? So expose according to the color and the density and the brightess. So you expose your camera, and you see the nice, rich colors on it. You see some darn shadows in there. Say, okay, we'll I'm gonna eliminate that shadow with a flash. Bam, easy, done, k? So here, if you see blue sky, that's perfect. I'm using direct sunlight. The sunlight is my main light. Nose towards the light, right? Now, I broke the rule here. The body is not away from the light, and the reason why I can do that is when somebody is wearing something darker than their skin, then you can put the body towards the light. Because now that won't be overexposed. If she's wearing white, I can't do this. I have to have her body away. But because she's wearing something that's darker than her skin tone, then I can have it the same direction of the light, okay? Now do you notice some shadows on the other side of her? So if I wanted to create more of a commercial feel, everything is in focus, it to pop, what I could do is take my flashes and fire over here to light up that and eliminate those shadows. So in this particular case, and so this is what I get, something like this. But, that's using the sun, so it's like 45 degrees. She's in the middle, I got the sun lighting one side, and I got my flashes lighting the other side. In this particular case, a lotta times when I'm out there, I'll just put two flashes on full and then go for it because that'll give me an extra, cause if you're just using one flash, you can only be around six feet or sometimes even less than that. But if I put two flashes on full, then I got some extra juice. I can stand a little bit farther away, and if I'm going hard light with hard light, I don't really care about making it soft at that point, right? And so that works. Okay, so two flashes on full on the left side and the sun on the right side. Flash eliminates the shadow. Hard light with hard light, it looks fine, but it's a certain look, you know? It has that commercial poppy color. I wouldn't necessarily try to make a romantic feel outta this with a couple, because it's gonna be too hard, so you know, depending on the lighting situation, you can't do certain pictures with it, right, because each lighting situation works with a type of imagery, okay? So, you gotta go with what you got and then learn how to pose that way also, okay? So let's get going here. Here's another example. I'm using the sun as the main. The sun is the main there, and I'm just using the flash to fill in here as you can see in the picture, right? Cause that's without anything. So that's just without the flash, right? So you can see my natural light situation. Sun is the main, flash is the backlight, k? Here again, sun as the main, the direct light, but nose towards the light, right? And so then, she got a nice short-side shadow there. I had her close her eyes, it was rather bright, and so I took a shot like that. That's why whenever you go out and shoot in bright light, you always gotta have sunglasses with you, too. Because it could be so bright that they can't see, and so if you put sunglasses on 'em, then it's cool. Alright, here's another bright direct sunlight situation, but I happened to use a reflection instead, k? But that sun is straight on them. That's not created. Here's another bright light situation where I find, like a lot of times, I look for shadows, and I look for that bright spot in the middle of that shadow, and I put my subject there, and it gives me some great light. Nose towards the light. It was rather high. You can see that catch-light in his eye there, okay, and so if the sun is high and they have to look like this to see the sun and if you're short, you don't wanna fire up their nostrils, right? So the solution is, get them down, and then you can still shoot down on them, okay? And that's what I did there. Here's another bright shot here. Direct sunlight, shoot it, nose towards the light, body away, bam, ret to go, okay? So that's how you use direct sun. Let me use side light. What do you do for side light? Same thing, nose to the light. Fill unwanted shadows with flash. So, if that light is coming from the side and I pose this way, that sun could be so strong that it's creating really deep shadows on this side. And so then you can just use your flash to take away as much as you want. Use it as a reflector, right? A reflector will also work in this case, right? One flash on full usually works when you're doing that situation. Of course, you gotta have your shutter speed below 1/ if you're shooting in manual, and you just adjust the flash power by distance. Set it on full, closer for it to be brighter. Step back to make it less. Very easy. So let's look at some sight light cases here, k? So here, I'm using it as side light, so the nose is towards the light, and you can see, you have a highlight and you have a shadow. Highlight and shadow, k? And in that case, the shadow wasn't too strong, so I didn't have to kill it with a flash. Here's another case where it's super bright light, nose towards the light, and a lotta times, it's really bright, so if you have them open your eyes, you have a countdown, so they're closing their eyes, and then, you know, say, "Hey on three, open your eyes," and then you quickly take it. So I do that method a lot. Side light, it's a very good use, okay? So here's another one where I had to use, and so the shadows were too strong, so I took a flash in on this side to reduce those shadows to get the look that I wanted, k? Because they were too strong there. But I just wanted this kinda feel, so I took my flash and fired it here to reduce those shadows. Here's side light again, right? Nose towards the light. This time, I'm having her look down. Here's another bright light situation, here. Side light, using that, you know, and so this is all a matter of taste, right? You might think this shadow side is too dark for you. I was just kinda lazy here and I didn't have anybody help me, so I just was shooting it, and everybody else was shooting models and stuff like that, but you could have brought in another flash here to reduce that shadow if you wanted to. It's personal taste, right, okay? So here's side light again. And then you can also shoot into darkness. So what I like doing is using that side light, but finding something dark behind them so then when they're lit up, they pop, okay. So what do you do? You find a sun spot, you point the lens towards the shade area, the dark area, right? Sun spot into the dark area, nose towards the light. Then you expose for the brightest area, so I'm exposing for the skin right here cause I don't wanna blow that out, and so it's so bright here that when I expose for that, that's gonna make the background darker, and they're gonna pop right off of that, okay? So, expose for the brightest spot. Subject will pop off background there. Okay, here's another one with using side light, and nose towards the light. Side light here, but I used the flash on the other side to lighten and open that up, okay? So the final one, this is the tricky one, is when the sun is behind the subject, and they're completely dark, okay? So this is the tricky one. So what you gotta do is, expose for the background first, okay? So you make that blue sky as dark or bright as you want to. Expose for that first. Your subject's gonna be dark, and then just take a flash and fill it in with light. It's just like using a reflector. Put it on full and use it just like a reflector. One flash works, but it's very limited. You can't diffuse the light because that will lose power. You only have to have it about five and a half feet, six feet away, and that's it. That's all one flash is designed to do. It's not designed to do more. So, what? One flash is adequate but limited. Two flashes is good, cause it makes it brighter. Three flashes, even better, right, so the more flashers, the better, and you just gang 'em together. You got more strength. Just see it as a reflector, k? You're feeling, "Ooh, it's too bright." Move a flash back. It's not bright enough, move it forward. Very easy. Don't even just think about it, okay? Alright, so, reflector will work also. You can also use a reflector, but that also gives your subjects the tan, and sometimes it's so bright that it's hard for them to pose, because you're constantly putting on that bright light on them, and sometimes it doesn't work. But if you use a flash, it's so momentary that they don't even notice that it's bright light. SO that's why I don't use a reflector, because it doesn't work in all situations, and I like using my flash, okay? And your shutter speed is under 200th of a second or less when you're using a manual flash, and so that's how you solve that situation. It's very easy, okay? Adjust flash power by distance. Use a reflector, okay? So, if you have a bare flash, lemme tell you what you're gonna get. If you use one flash, you're at five to six feet, right? If you put a diffuser on it, you can only be about two or three feet from your subject in order for it to work, okay? So that's why if you get a couple flashes, now you've got some distance here when you put a diffuser on, and if you got three flashes, it's even better. The more the merrier, because now you can start to diffuse your light, and you have a usable distance from your subject, okay? But, you know, generally, I just make everything work right in this one with a couple flashes. So 90% of your imagery, couple flashes and I'm good. Okay, so, get that? Alright, good. Let's show you what's happening here. See, you can see that. Two flashes on full. I gotta set my background first. Fire it in. Light her up. That's good. And here, I went in and I diffused the light, so now I have that two flashes on full, through an umbrella, but that umbrella's only about three, about four feet away from her, okay? And so that's why I'm able to get soft like that, light like that. So you can see the setups that I'm doing. Two flashes on full through an umbrella. Produces stuff like this, k? That's it. So you set your background, fire it on your subject, adjust by distance. Here's another straight flash right on my subject, and so to do this shot here, I just used a straight flash. You know what I got. There it is, right? Same situation here using soft light at this time and just firing it in. Easy peasy. I have a couple. This is hard light, hard light. Didn't diffuse it. Set my background first. Two flashes on full, bam, there it is. That's how easy it is, k? Same situation here. Two flashes on full, six feet away. Set your background first, fire it in, you're done.

Want to be able to go into any situation with your camera and have the confidence to know you’ll get the shot? Award-Winning photographer Scott Robert Lim goes in-depth on the four foundational elements you must conquer if you want to develop your creativity and style.

Scott will give you the guidelines you need to master:

  • Lighting
  • Posing
  • Composition
  • Post-Processing

Once you master these fundamentals of portraits, you free up your mind to get creative and ultimately get the shot.


Class Introduction
5 Shots That WOW
Four Fundamentals of Photography
Create a Visual Impact with Composition
Importance of Foreground and Background
Create Depth in Landscape Images
Photos Don't Always Follow the Rules
Composition Practice Exercise
Composition Critique of Student Images
Keys to Posing
Shoot: Classic Elegance Female Pose
Shoot: Modern Female Pose
Shoot: Rollover Female Pose
Female Hands & Arms Poses Overview
Shoot: Hands and Arms Poses for Female
Seven Posing Guidelines
Headshots Poses with Male Model
Shoot: Headshot for Male Model
Shoot: Sitting Poses for Male Model
Shoot: Leaning Poses for Male Model
Shoot: Standing Poses for Male Model
Keys to Couples Posing
Shoot: Couples Posing
Couples Transitional Posing Overview
Shoot: Transitional Posing
Keys to Group Posing
Accordion Technique with Groups
Shoot: Accordion Technique
Shoot: Best Buds Pose
Shoot: Talk with Your Hands Pose
Shoot: Lock Arms and Hold Hands Pose
Run at the Camera and Dance in Your Seat Poses
Shoot: Pod Method Pose
Posing Critique of Student Images
Introduction to Lighting
Soft vs Hard Light
Difficult Lighting Situations
Bright Light Techniques
Overcast Light Techniques
Low Light Techniques
Lighting Techniques Q&A
Drama Queen Lighting
Laundry Basket Lighting
Make it Rain Lighting
Smart Phone Painting with Light
Mini LED Bokeh Lighting
Choose the Right Lighting System
Hybrid Flash System
Innovative Accessories
Gear Overview
Theatrical Post-Processing
Ten Keys to Post-Processing
Essential Skills to Post-Processing
Headshot Post-Processing
Bright Light Post-Processing
Flat Light Post-Processing
Low Light Post-Processing
Introduction to Fine Art Post-Processing
Light & Airy Fine Art Post-Processing
Dark & Moody Fine Art Post-Processing
Post-Processing Critique of Student Images


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